White, the 27th overall pick in the 2005 NFL draft, played all 11 seasons of his career in Atlanta. The Falcons released their all-time leading receiver after the 2015 season and he sat out the 2016 season before announcing his retirement at age 35 in April.
During Monday’s festivities, Falcons owner Arthur Blank addressed the importance of second chances, Vick’s “bad experience” and the positive difference the quarterback made in the community after his release.
“Michael, like everybody on the face of the Earth … has made a mistake in his life,” Blank said. “It starts with the person who is speaking now, but life is really all about learning from your mistakes, redemption, learn to be a better person, moving on and making a difference in the lives of other people. There are many people that I know in life that have done that. I would say none more than Michael Vick. Michael, not only in terms of animal rights, but I would say at least as important in terms of children. A whole variety of ways, speaking to kids in school settings and church settings and a variety of other ways and means, talking to them about despite the pressures they may have within their family, despite pressures they may have from peers, despite pressures they may have from society, despite pressures they may have from institutions that they’re involved with, et cetera, is that he is a living example of how you can make a better choice, and coming from you Michael, that means so much to these young people that today are influenced in so many ways that are not always positive.”
Blank thanked White for his dedication to the community, as well as his toughness and humility.
“This is a great moment for myself and my family,” Vick said before a crowd that featured current and former Falcons, including Matt Ryan, Alge Crumpler and Brian Finneran. “I never thought that this moment would come. There’s been some great times, some very thrilling moments in the Georgia Dome, off the field in the city of Atlanta with me being here and I really cherish those moments, I’ll never forget them. Great times, I really couldn’t do it without the help of my teammates. … From the time I left the city of Atlanta with everything that I went through, I was able to sit and watch you guys develop as young professional football players and turn out to be marquee players for this franchise.”
Vick, who expressed his unconditional love for Blank, also expressed his thanks with an Instagram video.